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San Bruno 16, Us 12, Oakland 9, San Francisco 5, The City 4, Tom Sinkovitz 3, Pg & E 3, Lisa 3, George Kiriyama 3, Connie Jackson 3, Seaton 3, Francis 2, Stringer 2, Sfo 2, By Pg & E 2, Tom 2, Jean 2, Glenview 2, Safeway 2, San Diego 2,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business.  
   Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)  

    September 9, 2010
    10:00 - 11:00pm PDT  

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a lot of the area affected has been blocked off, may not be necessarily affected by the fire but they just can't get back to their house. these people are here also. >> where will they be put up for the night. >> reporter: red cross is coordinating this. usually it's area hotels, or high schools. >> where can get get information of casualties, other information. >> i believe the fire department is going to be coming down here, each hospital in the area having their own pios as far as a number of any casualties they're receiving. i cannot comment on that, as i merely don't have the numbers. they've been requested. >> do you have any idea how many people might have been displaced after this evacuation was over tonight? >> it's a large metropolitan area, several hundred people but i don't have the numbers. >> and no numbers of casualties, injured people? >> i do not have that
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information. >> how long are you expecting -- >> i don't know if the fire is out or not. i can't comment to that. as far as the evacuation area, we'll be here until the last victim gets shelter for the night. >> reporter: a member of the san mateo county sheriff's department just briefing us on exactly how many people are going to need shelter for the night. at least at this point people have been showing up here at the bay hill shopping center throughout this evening, and they have been told over the past hour or so to please come here and register, and anybody who needs shelter for the night is being loaded aboard a bus on top of a hill nearby, and at last count, this officer just told us, this deputy, that there are about 50 people. that number is likely to rise as more and more people break up the conversations they're having around the shopping center and head over here to register tonight, but we'll keep you posted on that. >> okay, thank you, tom. let's go through the numbers, you heard them say at least 100
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people, several hundred people displac displaced. 5,000 people without power in the area. about a three-quarter mile radius from the main area where the gas line ruptured. that has been evacuated, so those people in that area, as you heard the red cross spokesman say, even the people not affected by the fire will not be getting back into their home. we're getting trickling in numbers in terms of how many people have been injured. we have heard at least one person has died in this tragic explosion and we're waiting for a news conference from the fire department. we may get a clearer picture of what the expectation is for the night. how will they get a handle on the rest of this fire, how many people have been displaced, how many homes have been affected and tragically how many people may have been killed, what their expectations are in terms of what's happening. >> and you're looking at the live picture now of the area affected. two, three blocks, we're talking upwards of 35 homes and as the sheriff deputy said, hundreds of
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people here. meanwhile, firefighters are still on the scene, some homes still on fire, still -- the flames aren't as big as they were earlier this evening. still, many homes ablaze right now. and perhaps what's hampering this firefighting effort are the weather conditions, namely the wind, the fog in the area, our own jeff ranieri is here to tell us about that. >> that's right, lisa. something unique to san francisco is the fog we get rolling in. we're looking right now at the aerial view of the fire. once again in the san bruno rolling wood area, then you've got the fog on the left of your screen. so as that continues to push in, this fire will continue to create its own winds because you've got the contrast from the cool air on the coast and these very, very hot flames that will finance to intensify these winds and keep them in the 20 to 30-mile-per-hour range as we head all the way into the early morning hours.
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here's another view of this fire, where if is located, once again butting up right against those coastal hills near highway 35 also known as skyline boulevard. there are dozens and dozens of streets that are in the immediate impact region of this. as you can see on the screen. so it is still a time of major concern, because these embers from the fire still burning can travel some 20 to 30 miles away, so this is something you need to watch very closely. >> concern indeed. thank you very much, jeff. we've been talking to fire evacuees but also leland ye. >> reporter: he is walking around, assessing the situation. what kind of help can you bring from the state of california? >> the state has now declared this area a state of emergency. the governor's not here but the lieutenant governor has signed that particular order.
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what that's going to do is release all kinds of resources to help not only with dousing the fire, but more importantly helping to repair this particular area. my interest right now is that these are individuals who are no longer able to go back to their homes. they're going to be looking for shelter and trying to assess that situation to make sure that everyone's going to be taken care of. >> so as people get up tomorrow morning, senator, and begin to realize what has happened to them and wonder what their first step is, what would you recommend when it comes to getting help from the state? is there any way to access that help? >> right now the first order of business is to get them shelter while we're going to help them get that shelter for tonight, i'm going to be calling the different entities within the state to then figure out what is our next step. i think we've got to look at individuals who are up there,
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may be injured, may have died, and we've got to do that. recovery is going to be really critical. but also we've got to help ensure that they are going to get the shelter, the food and clothing that they need. >> reporter: all right. we appreciate your time, sir. i know you've got a lot of work to do here. >> thanks, tom. you know, what we have been saying all night long, at least for the last couple of hours, this appears to be a ruptured gas line. this has been the supposition from the fire department from the people there who saw what happened. pg & e now some four hours after this incident happened is now confirming that it is a ruptured gas line and that it is their gas line. we want to read you a statement just sent to us by pg & e spokesman jeff smith saying our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this terrible situation. we have crews on the scene working with emergency officials which they told us earlier. but this is the key part of this statement. though a cause has yet to be
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determined, we know that a pg & e gas transmission line was ruptured t is ultimately determined that if it is ultimately determined we were responsible for the cause of the incident, we will take accountability for this incident. >> we've been getting video all night, you're looking at a live shot of the scene but this is from a stringer when that fire ball as can you see just erupted, that huge, orange fire ball, the fire ball that the fire evacuees and victims have been telling us about, to tom sinkovitz, to george kiriyama, people thought perhaps it was an earth quake or a plane going down. pg & e has confirmed it was a ruptured gas line. this is stringer video shot earlier today of when this all started to happen just about 6:00, right after 6:00 this evening when a lot of folks were home with their kids just
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sitting down for dinner, and all of a sudden, mayhem broke out. >> the descriptions of people have been amazing. they've been saying it felt like the end of the world. another man said it was horrendously hot. everyone describing this ball of fire that suddenly erupted right before their very eyes. we've heard, we saw a young mother earlier pregnant, eight months pregnant running out of her house with three children. you saw an elderly gentleman who grabbed his two dogs. he said the most precious thing in his life. he'd just run and went. then we heard from bob pelligrini, watching the football game when they heard the earth rumble beneath them and then all of a sudden saw a wall of fire right outside their homes. went to open the door, couldn't even open their front door. had to figure out how to escape with his brother, the people at his house watching the game, and his children.
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children that he says are now trauma adverti traumatized. >> children who thought the end of the world was coming. can you just imagine from a child's point of view. now let goes back to tom sinkovitz, he is talking with the sheriff's deputy. >> reporter: this is detective sean o'donnell, san mateo county sheriff's office working with the red cross tonight. tell me again what you've seen so far tonight. how many people need shelter tonight? >> we don't have a set number of people that need shelter. a lot of people checking in to the tune of 100-plus people that merely can't get back to their residences. people who do need shelter are working in conjunction with the red cross. they've been real supportive. people from out of the area are offering clothing, offering food, offering assistance. we have construction workers and nurses showing up. what we have is the red cross starting to coordinate with people that not necessarily house has been affected by the fire, but people just can't get back in with small children and stuff to the area. so the red cross is assisting them. >> reporter: you indicated some of the people who needed shelter
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tonight were getting on the bus up there, is that the case? >> a situation like this, officer emergency services works in conjunction with the buses, we have food and beverage on the bus, climate control, get people out of the elements. easy control so they can get briefed on the situation also. >> reporter: did you expect to see more people here tonight? frankly i didn't see that many people lined up to register. >> i'm actually quite surprised on the amount amount of people showing up, really surprised of the amount of civilian help offering to volunteer. >> reporter: we see people milling about, trading stories. is it your expectation people will sign in and some of them may indeed need shelter for the night? >> i think people are gravitating to the area. this may be as close as they could get to the site and may be just seeing if they can assist and see what's going on. >> reporter: are you hearing from anyone that can't locate anyone? >> some were looking for
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relatives they were able to contact via cell phone. we're having them fill out a name and put down the people they're looking for in case those people show up at the center we can put them together. >> someone indicated tonight they could not locate their parents. if that's the case, what do you recommend they do? >> if they can't locate their parents, we can have -- they can contact us, send out a welfare check team to make sure they're safe and sound, and able to stay in their house or need to be pulled out to the evacuation center. >> reporter: how long have you been with the police? >> 21 years. >> reporter: have you ever seen anything like this? >> oakland hills firestorm. i was there. >> reporter: there's a comparison? >> when a rived on scene, definitely comparison. this is the second largest fire compared to the oakland hills fire. >> detective, thank you very much. appreciate your time tonight. and again, right here at the check-in center where the american red cross has set up its service center right now, and you heard the detective tell us that earlier tonight that
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maybe about 50 people had shown up looking for shelter for the night. i think they're estimating that number downward as people walk up here and just volunteer places for these people to stay, which is certainly a spirit that we've come to expect in this community when there's tragedy and people are helping out. >> it's all about the kindness of strangers, right, tom? >> reporter: indeed it is. indeed it is. that's exactly what's happening here tonight. >> well, tom, apparent will this story is going across the country, the huge flames and people affected. let's take a look at the "l.a. times" website right now. you're seeing it there on your screen. that is chris johansson on the left side, one of our photojournalists taking shots from afar, but as you can imagine, websites, news websites, papers, televisions stations across the country are airing this story because it is such a traumatic story. a dramatic story as well, and if you hear all the stories of survival, the people that made it out alive, just with the
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clothes on their backs, once again with their kids, their dogs, anything they thought was valuable they just grabbed and ran out. once again this fire broke out just after 6:00 this evening near 280 san bruno avenue around that area known as crestmore, the san mateo county coroner's office has confirmed there has been one fatality, one death so far. a news conference was supposed to take place just about 14 minutes ago, but as you can imagine, the immediacy of the seen and the details coming back and forth, they will have a news conference tonight to maybe answer a lot of the questions about how this fire started, how many people got out alive, how many people are injured, how many homes are affected, we have one confirmation tonight as i said from the san mateo county coroner's office one person has died so far, and confirmation from pg & e that it was their gas line, a high-pressure
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natural gas line that did rupture. they don't know what caused it, as of yet. but this investigation obviously will continue. >> it's interesting that deputy, again, the second person we've heard tonight talk about the oakland hills fire. for those of you living in the bay area at that time, or if you weren't, the oakland hills fire, also known as the oakland hills firestorm, that happened in october of 1991. and, really, it was -- it say legendary fire. people still talk about that fire. so many people were displaced. 25 people actually died in that fire. more than 3,000 homes just southeast of berkeley in the oakland hills were completely obliterated. it cost over $1.5 billion, imagine that was back in 1991. it was just a horrific moment in time, and really people talk about that just like they talk about the loma prieta earthquake. where were you when the firestorm erupted?
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firefighters were caught in the backdraft of that fire and some even died in that. 150 people were injured in that fire, we're hoping that this doesn't compare in magnitude to what happened in the oakland hills, certainly we know it won't be as many homes. but we do expect it to be somewhere between 20, maybe 30 homes. but in the oakland hills fire, really, more than 3,000 homes were just gutted in a firestorm that marks bay area history for those that lived here at the time. >> we continue to hear stories of survival from the oakland firestorm and oakland hills fire, our own tom sinkovitz has been hearing those type of stories all night, here from the san bruno fire. tom? >> reporter: we're here at the bay hills shopping center. people are just kind of coming together to share stories of what happened tonight. they're obviously is a great deal of shock and disbelief, and a different kind of vantage
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point tonight. >> i was at crest more soccer field. my son was at a soeccer practic. i was on the phone with my wife overlooking where this occurred and this massive rumbling occurred which i think people were saying they thought it was an earthquake. and just all of a sudden i saw this massive explosion. >> reporter: did it seem to come out of the ground? >> actually, it looked like it was from a house. and it looked like it was an explosion from a home. and it was -- then there was actually several of them. at that point, you know, you can't really tell exactly where it was. i knew my other son was playing in another soccer field nearby there, so the kids were all freaking out around because it was huge. so i grabbed my son, got in my car, drove up to where leonardi's was, the flames were 100, 150 feet in the air. i went down skyline boulevard
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and got to my other son's field and he was safe, fortunately, and got him in the car. but it was a pretty frightening experience. >> reporter: did you feel initially, a lot of people thought that maybe a plane had gone down. was that your sense? >> you know, i saw it, i didn't see a plane but people were saying it was a plane, but i didn't see that. and with the amount of pressure from the -- i mean, it had to have been the gas because it was literally shooting pressure, balls of fire into the air. >> dave, we appreciate it very much. >> you've got it. >> reporter: again, a story about he and his sons that he, a lot of people are going to be sharing for a long, long time. such an extraordinary event here in san bruno tonight, and again, this is where people are coming to share their experiences. you can imagine, people are walking around and you see a lot of hugging and you see a lot of smiles and you get the sense that it's masking an awful lot
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of grief and it's hard work, but such is the aftermath of tragedies like we witnessed tonight. >> boy. and the panic that people must have felt in those moments, tom, when all of a sudden they saw that fire exploding and it really punk wactuates what we as talk about. you need a plan to get out of your house, now we need a plan to get out of your house if there's a gas eruption. one thing we want to be reassured by pg & e is this is luckily something that doesn't happen very often, but the key question is why did it happen tonight. >> also saying if it is determined that they were responsible for the cause of the accident, as they, quote, say, we will take accountability. what that is so far, we don't know. once again, a news conference was supposed to begin at the top of the hour, officials still probably trying to get all the details together as to how many people were affected by this
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fire, how many houses burned to the ground. as you can see by our pictures throughout the night, it's just one massive inferno, intense heat, the gusty winds to put out that fire, it is a long night ahead. once again, bay hill shopping center, an evacuation center. veterans memorial center, also a shelter. a seniors center nearby, also a shelter. also the call is out for type "o" negative blood. it will be needed badly for the victims of that fire, not only tonight, but centers will open tomorrow for blood don'tations and throughout the weekend as we understand. >> you saw photos being brought in, being sent into the newsroom right now, people flooding us with photographers, some of their -- right there, there's one. that's the massive fire ball, photo capturing the moment, we are assuming at this point, the moment that that first initial rupture happened.
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it's been described as a 60-foot-high wall of flames, again, we're looking at some more video right now, obviously someone driving through and seeing some of that smoke. this, from the roadway. different vantage point, earlier in the day you could see when it was light from san francisco it could be seen all around the bay area, this huge plume of smoke in the air, and chaos just basically ensuing in the moments that followed this. >> here's some numbers we know so far. according to the san mateo county coroner's office, one person has died as a result of this fire. five people were taken to sf general, three to seaten medical center, one of the three was ultimately transported to st. francis for burn treatment. but as we know, this is going to be a long process. they're still trying to locate people, relatives from throughout the area, calling their loved ones, their parents,
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their wives, their husbands, their children, to see if they made it out of that fire. it's been difficult because as we heard earlier, pg & e quoted earlier in the evening that 5,000 people were without power in that area. firefighters had to deal with that situation as well. no power, no water, just an ever-changing situation, if you can see by the video, and the pictures we've been showing you throughout the night t is a tough situation. look, that area is aglow in an orange, eerie glow because of those intense flames, the intense heat jumping, the fire, the flames jumping from one house to another. and this is all taking place in san bruno in an area called crestmore. you can see fire retardant being dropped, just thick, intense folk. >> some people couldn't even touch the door because of the temperature. we're talking about a temperature of over 800 degrees
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in a matter of just an instant. tom sinkovitz is standing there again for us at the strip mall where we've been hearing these compelling stories, not only of victims but people just flooding down also to see what they can do to help. really, tragedy brings out the best in us. >> reporter: it does. jessica took the words right out of my mouth. look at this woman bringing blankets and towels from her home to make sure that anybody who needs them tonight has them, has warmth, not just the red cross but people just watching the coverage from their homes thinking, i just need to come down here and volunteer. i can't tell you how many people now are showing up to help out the victims of this fire in san bruno. one of the people who happened to be watching the coverage tonight is visiting us from san diego. it's maria strain who happens to be with san diego county search who is the citizen emergency response team. so you sat there looking at this and thought, i've got to go out there and help.
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i've got some training. >> right. we train for disaster preparedness for six weeks. we're an administrative arm to the fire department. and that's just something we do. we're here to help in any way we can. >> reporter: so you came here and said what? >> well, first i do the chain of command where i look for others in the area, and attach myself with them and follow their lead. >> reporter: so what's your job now? you've been given a responsibility. >> yes, the responsibility i have now is to make sure the information gets out to the people. the people who have been affected by this devastation and to get the information that food, shelter, medications needed, the red cross is here, they will definitely take a list of names and phone numbers and people really in need of that immediately. >> reporter: i'm sure the people of this community certainly appreciate your help. >> thank you so much. >> reporter: nice to meet your acquaintance and that's the story we're hearing over and over again tonight, is people responding and helping people
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who in many cases have lost everything except for the clothes on their backs. so they're bringing them some more clothes, some blankets, some towels, and offering other things as well. as a matter of fact, people, you know, the strip mall has restaurants, there's a starbucks coffee, there's a cvs pharmacy, we heard george kiriyama talking to the manager there tonight. people offering drinks, small sandwiches, things of that nature to people standing around and still sharing their stories of the tragedy that they lived through tonight. in all but apparently one case so far. back to you. >> tom, that help will be badly needed throughout the night and coming days. george, ke is with a person on claremont way, one of the areas affected by this massive inferno. george, what can you tell us? >> reporter: well, he went to get his mom, his mom was at home
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when this happened. he was at football practice so he didn't get to see it, he said his mom smelled gas and then heard an explosion. we're going to hear the story in a second when he gets back here, but he's really worried. he was at football practice, didn't know what was going on, when he finally heard what was going on, he called his mom and met with his mom and found out that his moment was one of those in that neighborhood, in that area where the fire is going on. so i'm sure they have a huge story to tell. i can tell you right now, this side of bay hill where cvs is, it's open until midnight so they're coming out with food, and i talked to a number of people also who are saying they are finding places to go, clarence press who we talked to 15, 20 minutes ago, he was saying his wife works for hyatt, so they're taken care of, people are looking for hotel, motel, a friend's place or some of the shelters we've been hearing about from the red cross. as soon as joey and his mother
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get here, we'll talk to you, talk to them and i'll give it back to you. >> george, excuse me. is relief turning into frustration at this point? >> reporter: you know, i think some people are getting frustrated. i was trying to find a couple people to talk to, went to a car that was right behind us, and i asked them, would you care to share your story? and took one look at his face and he goes, i can't do this. i just -- it's too tough for me. so i said okay. so -- and then a number of people still here at cvs pharmacy are saying the same thing. there's a family right there who said they just, it's too tough for them to talk, because they just don't know. they don't know if their home is still standing and for them it's just really, really tough. can you see it on their faces. >> it is a tough situation. we can only imagine what they're going through tonight. they're happy to be aive loo, to have escaped with just the clothes on their back, but when
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morning comes, when daylight comes, that reality will really sink in. george, we're looking at some video shot by stringers, photographers on the scene moments after it happened. as you can see, helicopters there dropping fire retardant desperately trying to put out those massive flames and dealing with all that heat. a number of homes, the number goes from 20 to 35 homes, hundreds of people affected. there are shelters set up throughout that area. the veterans memorial center, bay hill shopping center where george is at. seniors center near the veterans member norrial center. alpine inn and suites was offering free rooms for fire victims, those rooms have been filled. but there are other hotels if the area taking in fire victims. the red cross is at the bay hill shopping center doing the same, offering food, warm blankets, shelter, anything they can for these fire victims that have
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come to the shopping center for some kind of relief and some kind of help. once again, this fire broke out just after 6:00 this evening, in the san bruno area after 280, san bruno area. immediately fire crews were rushed to the scene to help put out this fire, but those fire crews are dealing with such intense heat, intense flames, and they're also dealing with no power. no water nearby. can you imagine the residents as they scurried from their home, some carrying their children, some carrying their dogs, some parents at weekly soccer practices, football practices, to be there and feel that huge shake in the ground which they thought was initially an earthquake. then they surmised maybe it was a plane that went down. then they find out it was a gas line that erupted. in any wcase, some just went running down the street, some
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got in their car, you can see how hot it was because some of the car bumpers were singed by those flames. just a number of people running for their lives. let's hear right now from some people who were there when this explosion and fire went down. >> suddenly we heard this loud explosion and the gund shook and we thought, i thought in the beginning it was an earthquake, but there was a blaze of fire and we could really feel the shaking. so my nanny ran outside and started yelling, screaming, saying that i think there's a plane that just crashed. i don't even know what's going on. but we just ran. we didn't have any shoes, you know, the kids were -- we had to borrow all this stuff from our neighbor. >> reporter: do you know what exploded? >> i don't know. i've heard different stories. >> reporter: could you tell what was burning or you could just
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tell there was a fire. >> there was definitely an explosion, a loud bang. and then there was a huge fire, and smoke everywhere and we just -- we just ran for our lives. >> i had trouble getting out. i had to -- the car was in the driveway, i had a car in the driveway but it was burning already. this car was in the garage and i was able to get in it and i had to lift the garage door manually and jump in and drive up out through the fire and it kind of melted the taillights a little bit and the plastic rear parts and i'm sitting here waiting. >> we just ran for our lives, it is what you keep hearing tonight over and over again. horrifying stories of chaos and panic as this rep toured gas line just emitted a ball of fire in the air. people saying it looked like the end of the world had suddenly occurred before their very eyes. running for our lives. literally. >> and you can see all the video
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we've been showing you tonight just how intense that situation is. last report the san mateo county coroner's office reports one death so far. a number of people taken to sf general, a number of people taken to seaton medical center where there was a code triage, basically a call out to any doctor, any nurse, any medical professional to come to seaton medical center to offer care, support, for any of the people injured as a result of this fire. >> we understand that the actual house where the main explosion occurred under which the gas line actually ruptured, that there is a huge crater where that house once existed. that house no longer there. just a deep crater, and that homes that are right in the perimeter of that house, that house no longer on fire, but the houses that are surrounding it still engulfed in flames at this hour, now coming up on 4 1/2
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hours since we first got the call about this massive gas line explosion in the san bruno area in the crestmore park neighborhood. as many as 30 houses may have been affected by this, and may have been completely obliterated. numerous people have been injured, at least one fatality. we are waiting for the news conferce where we can get some of this information confirmed. but what we are hearing over and over and over again are stories of survival, stories of compassion, stories of neighbor reaching out and helping his neighbor. >> there are also stories of people who live in that neighborhood who were not home at the time of that explosion. they heard about it, rushed to the scene, trying to find out if they still had a home. if their loved ones were injured or hurt in this fire. this mattive explosion. george kiriyama, we check in with him. you're hearing stories of those not home at the time but they
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want to know what happened and what's left. >> reporter: he was at work and did not know if his home was one of the homes that was on fire, and so you're at work, and you found out -- how -- >> i was at work, and one of my employees just looked out the window and asked me if this is my house over there. i can see the fire from my house, from work. and after that i tried to get to my house. but i couldn't. so i just -- me and my wife and 3-month-old baby. >> reporter: your wife, was she at home at the time? >> no, my wife left home by 5:00 something and we met at work. and by then already, the fire already started. >> reporter: wow. so you really have nothing from your home, you -- you just came out of cvs, right?
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what did you buy? >> toothpaste, toothbrush, gripe water for my son, he has gas, but besides that, i'm going to get a t-shirt to sleep in because i wasn't prepared. i was surprised but we're lucky. >> reporter: lucky because you and your wife, how many kids? >> i have one boy. >> reporter: and you'll meet up with them later and now you're together? >> i have plenty of messages from my friends saying next to my house they check if i'm there, mi casa, i want to be close by. >> not knowing if your home is affected, this has got to be concerning for you because you don't know how your home is doing. >> i have a cat in my house, but i really don't know what's going on over there, you know? i left the window open.
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i hope for good. >> reporter: thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> reporter: again, story after story we've been here for a few hours talking to people, and obviously concerned people trying to find a place to stay tonight. people trying to reunite with their families and as well as some of their friends. just, you know, very concerning for a lot of these people who have not been able to find out if their home is one of those affected. back to you. >> george, are up getting a sense if that crowd of evacuees is it growing bigger or is it dwindling in numbers? >> reporter: it's actually getting smaller. to the west of us on top of the main entrance, a number of buses taking evacuees we believe to the shelters. again, here's some cars right here, i don't know if you can get a shot of it, there's a couple of cars right here. here's a police vehicle. we've seen a number of cars go out of this shopping center just in the last few minutes, so i
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think people are starting to have a place to stay, whether it's friends, family, or going to a hotel or motel in the area. >> are there some people like the gentleman you just talked about, who are vowing to stay through the night because they want to know what's happened to their home? >> reporter: yeah, some are sticking around. there's one family who is sitting outside of cvs, they have not moved for the last three or four hours. i've asked them if they want to talk but they say not right now. it's too tough for them. but i think they're sticking around. sounds like they want to know how their home is doing. >> all right. thanks a lot, george. our own gene elle is nearby at sequoia. what do you know? >> reporter: a lot of people are watching the fire because their neighborhood could be in danger. i want to show you around, there's a fire hose stretching across here, it goes into the neighborhood which tells us the fire department really is getting water wherever it can. and if you can see through the
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wall of people there, who are watching the fire, you can see every now and then orange glow, there's still lots of smoke. it's clear this fire is still burning and lots of folks here are worried, worried about all these trees and embers flying around in the air. the folks on the other side, which is a divider between the neighborhood, are worried about those embers jumping over and landing in their neighborhood. there's lots of police and firefighters all around. i did just take a walk down into the neighborhood and ambulance crews are setting up a convalescent hospital for the firefighters. they're going to force some of those firefighters to get off the line, they want to check their vitvitals, force them to drink and have water. they're worried about their health because they've been here so long. as we moved cloets closer to this location, a whole other line of fire trucks came in. i think there's relief coming in for firefighters who have been on the line for several hours
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fighting this very hot fire. all of the folks that have experienced this explosion and fire have mentioned just how hot it got. so tense in this neighborhood, even though folks here are grateful their homes are still standing and they have a home to go home to tonight, they're still worried, because this fire is still burning. embers are floating around. the wind is still blowing. so there's a lot of concern in neighborhoods near the neighborhood that's burning about what may happener later tonight. again, firefighters are being forced to take a break. >> this is far from over, jean. jean, i know it's just been chaotic out there, but have you had a chance to be able to speak to any of the firefighters to get -- nail them down on any of the numbers of how many houses we've lost or what -- how long the expectation is before they're able to bring this fire under control? >> reporter: the firefighters that i have access to are just so busy they don't have time to even talk to me. and honestly i think they're so focused on their job, the big
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picture isn't clear to them yet. they haven't been told what the big picture is. i do know initially hours ago at least 20 homes had burned. and as of the hours pass, one would think more homes have burned. as far as how long they'll be out there, this fire is still burning, so it's far from over. >> yeah, we're hearing a lot of different numbers, as many as 40 homes, so it's very difficult to pin down exactly what's going on. and, jean, i don't know if you can even answer this. but at this point, despite the fire and everything, this is not affecting flight traffic at sfo at all, is it? >> reporter: as far as i know, it's not, although i haven't heard an airplane fly overhead in the last little bit. but as far as i know, everything is still normal. >> we'll have to check that out here with the newsroom and find out if we can get an answer to that, because this is san bruno, obviously so close to sfo. also right over the direct flight path that a lot of the flights coming into sfo goes through. so that's something that we'll want to try to get some
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information. i know initially we had contacted sfo and the faa and they were the ones that initially said they did not report any planes missing, that they did not have any reports of plane crashes and that's when it started to look like this could have been a gas line. so it's something we definitely want to check near in the newsroom to see if traffic at sfo is being affected. the other thing that i think we need to look at also is what the regular roadway traffic is. earlier in the evening when this first happened, 280 was shut down completely. we'll check on the traffic situation as well. we have new information from the associated press, the numbers so far from the damage from this fire. 53 homes destroyed, 120 damaged so far. those are initial estimates. as we remind you, this fire started more than six hours ago. but that fire is still burning. the flames hopscotching from one house to another.
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some people haven't been heard from. a lot of homes there lost power immediately after that big explosion. you hear from some of the survivors, some of the victims that they couldn't get their garage doors open because obviously they run on electricity, automatic doors, so they had to do it manually. so you know they lost power immediately. plus the loss of immediate water, the situation is much better here, more than four hours later, but once again, the associated press is telling us that so far 53 homes are destroyed, 120 damaged so far. again, the night is young. as daylight comes, those numbers are bound to change. we're just getting new numbers also in about the scope of the injuries as well, lisa. can you imagine with 53 homes destroyed, 120 damaged, you're going to have a lot of injuries. kaiser is now telling us they have had 15 people brought in,
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four of those transported to the burn center, three of those people in critical condition. a similar story what we heard earlier from san francisco general that they also had numerous -- five people brought in to san francisco general. three of those in critical condition. initially st. francis hospital also in san francisco had two people brought in to their burn center, and seaton medical center has been dealing with a stream of people being brought in to that hospital as well. >> and vicky nguyen is standing by with a neighbor who went through the massive, traumatic ordeal. vicky? >> reporter: lisa, we're here just about five blocks northeast of where the fire is burning tonight. and with me now is ethan benjamin. ethan, you returned home, you actually said that you heard the boom, you felt the explosion in your house. describe to me what it was like. >> yeah. i leave home around 6:00 and
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around 6:14, that's the time, because i was putting on the tv and that's what i could hear. i thought it was initially kind of an airplane moving closer to the building. i said did something crash into a building, kind of thing. the sound came to that and kind of vibrated the entire building. and then it suddenly stopped. then, okay, i thought something was coming very close, some kind of an aerial kind of thing. later around 6:40, 6:50, that's the time they put the power off and everything. >> reporter: so your power has been off for almost four hours. what is your plan and what are you and your neighbors doing now? >> right now we're assembling in small groups in apartments and we're getting all the people together and putting together a plan. there is no power, even we can't go out -- >> reporter: right, i know a lot of folks have left the area but from talking to neighbors it
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seems like a close-knit neighborhood, people helping each other, we've seen people bringing blankets down to the evacuees affected by the fire. talk to me about your thoughts for friends and neighbors right now. >> right now initially four houses, i could see the flames coming. >> reporter: that number is over 50 homes that have been destroyed, some burns right down to the ground and another 120 damaged. so, yeah, the damage there is extensive. what are your thoughts for those folks over there? >> all the people who lost their houses, it's a real tragedy for them. it is a real thing, out of power, out of electricity, out of their homes, and i heard it's really getting cold tonight, so that also is a lot of problems for people, going to work, going to school, going to regular jobs. >> reporter: right. you will be heading back to work tomorrow. >> yes, i am. >> reporter: thank you so much, resident here in crestmore just about five blocks from where that fire is burning right now. i would say at least half of
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this neighborhood is actually emptied out, people going and finding alternate residence or places to stay tonight because power is out indefinitely, obviously pg & e has its hands full figuring out what's happening over there, shutting down gas and power within about a half mile radius of where this fire is burning tonight. that's our understanding. just a moment ago, we had expected an update from the mill bray fire chief, all the media has been stationed here waiting for the update since about 9:00, and our understanding is that now they have moved it once again. this is probably the fourth time they have moved this press update. it is now going to be down where george kiriyama and tom sinkovitz are standing by at the shopping center at cherry and san bruno. we're hoping to get the latest number of those injured, confirmed dead as well as the percent containment of this fire. obviously firefighters have been
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working this entire time, flames are still burning and they're working in tandem with pg & e to get this under control. back to you. >> we'll turn it over to tom sinkovitz who is at the mill bray shopping center where we had been waiting for that news conference to begin. tom? >> reporter: all right. jessica, we're standing by with some police and fire department spokes people, and officials, and we are told that we're just a couple minutes away from getting our first press briefing here tonight. so we'll get a better idea of, i assume, exactly how many homes have burned and perhaps what the status is in the neighborhood right now. and how long people may have to stay away from their neighborhoods that had been evacuated around the immediate fire area tonight. so we're standing by, and we have been told that they're waiting for a couple of people to riv, but again, we'll get
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back to you just as soon as this press conference begins. but obviously we'll get answers to a lot of the questions we've been asking tonight. >> tom, while we're waiting for that, some new information. safeway, all safeway stores are making lunches and providing water to the fire victims, those lunches, that water will be delivered to shelters in the san brun yo area and also city hall. there's been a lot of kindness from strangers this evening. people bringing blankets, people bringing jackets, people bringing food, safeway stepping in, local hotels providing free rooms for the fire victims. always the call for blood, type "o" negative blood, blood drives held tomorrow and throughout the weekend as well. >> as we way for that fire chief and that news conference with san mateo county sheriff's we're waiting for that, let's give you an update on what's happened.
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you're looking at live pictures of some of the presumed evacuees standing around waiting to try to get some answers, some help also with what's happening to them. but in terms of how their life turned around today, just a little bit after 6:00 this evening, out of nowhere, a gas line ruptured, sending a huge plume, fire ball into the air and sending hundreds of people scrambling for their lives. let's go to that news conference right now. >> what we're going to do is give you the introduction. i'm going to ask the fire chief to make a few comments. i will make some comments, and then i will ask the mayor to make some comments. we will take your questions after we have finished our brief comments. >> will you say your name? >> i will. i will. just a minute. okay. my name is connie jackson. i'm the city manager of the city
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of san bruno. first and foremost, we appreciate that you are here and providing good information to the public. it is urgently important in this critical situation that we're experienci experiencing. we're going to have some comments this evening quickly from chief dennis hague, and then i will ask mayor to make some comments after which i will give you an overview of the response and the active tifitie going on in the city organization. chief hague? >> can you spell your name? >> h-a-g-e. city of san bruno. >> it's a-a. two "as." we had an explosion in the area of units responded, what was discovered was it looked like a
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broken gas line, high pressure gas line. none of this can be confirmed. we still have yet to get to the scene of the origin of the fire. we've got 53 homes have been severely damaged, up to 120 homes have some fire damage at this point. we have only one confirmed fatality, it's going to take us until at least tomorrow into the afternoon to do a full search. >> is it under control? >> we'll take questions in just a moment. >> again, my name is connie jackson, i'm the city manager, city of san bruno, the city organization is fully mobilized to assist residents, our primary concern at this point is
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identifying and locating all of the residents of the affected area. we are asking residents of that area to report in to our shelter location on city park way at the veterans memorial recreation center in city park off crystal springs road in san bruno. it's urgently important that residents who have been evacuated or who have voluntarily evacuated to report in in person or to call our emergency hotline at 616-7180. again, that number is 616-7180. we're asking residents to report in so that we can make sure that all of the residents in the affected area are fully accounted for. this is our most immediate
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priority, other than the emergency response that will continue through the night on scene at the location of the fire. other than that, we have received overwhelming response from all of the agencies up and down the san mateo county corridor, from state and federal officials. we are extremely grateful and we are of course urgently concerned that, the safety of our residents is secured, and we will be working around the clock to see to it that this incident is managed in the best most effective way possible. unfortunately, we understandably, i hope, do not have as much information as we will as time goes on, and we will keep you informed. at this point, i'd like to introduce the mayor and he will make a few comments as well.
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>> good evening, jim r-u-a-n-e. let me trade spaces here. once again, jim ruane, r-u-a-n-e, mayor of san bruno. i'll leave the specifics to the professional responders, but a terrible, teschible tragedy has fallen on our city this afternoon. our main concern as public officials here making sure our citizens are safe, we're trying to do that right now, outreach, we have red cross here, we have intervie interviews, interviewing as many people as we can, but i'll leave the specifics up to the chiefs here. they'll give you details. but i would ask anybody who sees this broadcast tonight to say a special prayer for those people. this is going to be a long haul for the city and all of our residents for a number of weeks to come. thank you. >> do you know how many people are unaccounted for right now?
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>> no, we do not. we don't have any specifics on that. we know we have over 100 in evacuations centers, so hopefully most of those residents got out to the evacuation centers. but we have not been able to get into the area for search. >> describe the difficulties you had tonight assessing the situation and figuring out exactly what your strategy was. >> our problem was is obviously with the high pressure gas line we could not get close to the line until they could shut down that pipeline. currently they're shutting down distribution lines, so we still have residual in the gas lines. at the last briefing we still were not able to access the area fully. >> is the fire still burning? >> one at a time. >> fires are still burning, probably the heaviest damage of the residential area, we are holding right now, we're confident we'll hold the fire to the existing perimeter.
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pg & e was very helpful in the situation, obviously the distribution, it's two different systems so they had to get resources out here to make that closure. >> how many people evacuated? >> the question is how many people evacuated? >> all i know at this time is there are 100 people in the evacuation center. >> is there any way knowing how long those people not in the immediate fire area might have to stay away from their homes? >> i couldn't venture a guess until we assess the situation. >> damaged, 120 others damaged? >> yes, that is the information we have at the briefing. >> how widespread is the shutoff of gasoline services, electricity services, can you estimate? >> that would be a pg and e question. i could only guess tim ate and not be accurate. that's up to you. >> fire right now? >> the fire is being contained
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at this point. at the briefing, it was 50% contained. but i think we're in a good holding pattern right now. i don't think we'll have much extension. >> what is your particular concern tonight? >> well, actually getting access so we can secure and make sure the gas is totally shut down, and we have our crews to go in and do some cleanup of the area. >> at the time of the explosion, the city is going to try to coordinate as much as we can to help the residents. hotline will be set up, connie jackson already told you about that, the city manager. and we're going to try to set up some informational tables, if we can, probably at city hall for insurance companies, things like that, so we can get quick, quick relief for these individuals affected. >> unknown at this time. we have no idea. >> where was the break? >> all we know it was the end of glenview, the bottom of glenview
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seems to be the first hole we noticed was, and, but it was a large hole. >> at this point we have declared a disaster, a local disaster in the city of san bruno which has been confirmed through the state. and we will be accessing federal resources to the extent that they are available through that process. at this point i do not know. >> right now the safety of our firefighters, obviously we don't have great lighting in the area, and we're going to have to go through, it's a messy scene down there, so the safety of the firefighters and any public around, all safety personnel, that's priority number one. >> so it's got to be daylight before you get in there and see what happens? >> until we get down there, i hope not. i hope we'll do initial investigations tonight, but
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realistically probably tomorrow morning. >> are the evacuations finished now? or could there be more depending on circumstances? >> you could be correct. there could be more. i mean, right now we had the most affected areas that we've evacuated with law enforcement assistance and we're comfortable with that, but that doesn't mean something else couldn't happen. >> what was the response -- smelling gas for over a week. what was the response -- >> this is a question coming from a citizen here. >> this is the first we've had any notice from it. this is the first time the fire department's ever had any notice. >> reporter: the question here for viewers back there is that some people had reported apparently smelling gasoline for a week. let's get back here. >> i'm going to venture between 150 and 200 now. we've got six alarms going into this fire, and plus we have outside resources with water tenders and so forth. >> the number o